Two Paths

Two Paths

J.C. Thompson |

In the second week of the series SUMMER IN THE PSALMS, we walk through Psalm 1 and learn about the two paths presented by the author.

Summer In The Psalms
Two Paths – Message 2
J.C. Thompson
July 23, 2023

A. INTRODUCTION (Psalm 1:1a; 34:8)

Psalm 1:1a (ESV) Blessed is the man…

Psalm 34:8 (NIV) Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.



It seems at least that the two ways of life, at least in this place where we live, means to search after material blessings, individual blessings. But is that what the Bible means by being blessed?

The Bible says those who are blessed are those who fear doing wrong, those who help the poor, those who wait for the Lord’s help, Blessed are those who honor the sabbath, the one who is disciplined by the Lord, and those whose sins are forgiven. It also mentions those who remain steadfast while enduring trials, those who died in the Lord, and those whom the Lamb invites to the marriage meal.

Today in our 2nd week of Summer in the Psalms, we will be walking through the beginning of this world-altering book. The Psalms are an important book in the walk of faith.

And I must confess, the Psalms are only easy for me when I am going through an intense struggle. I feel the relief of being transparent with God, by sharing deeply my pain, my disgust, and my frustration and finding a family in the Psalms that comes to God with that attitude and finds God willingly accepting, but moving them towards His understanding of their moment in time.

But other times, I cannot get into the poetry of it all. That might seem difficult to believe for some of you because this face and this beard scream poetry, but it's true.

But I thought this quote from Dr. James Hamilton, who taught the Psalms to me in seminary, was helpful for me in approaching this book.

“The Psalms are thoroughly biblical, and by them the people of God through the ages have had their understanding of the Bible’s master narrative deepened, their faith in the truths that flow from it strengthened, their behavioral instincts sharpened, and all this comes not through lecture but poetry.[1]

The goal of the Psalms is not emotional flailing, but instead, the authors desire to instill deep biblical truths in a way that truly moves the heart, through poetry and song.

Today, we have what is called a Didactic Psalm or a teaching Psalm and it is the very Psalm to begin the book. Its goal is to show the proper way to enter this book.

B. Two Paths. (Psalm 1:1-2. C/R: Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Psalm 2:4; Matthew 6:24)

I like the translation of the NASB here because it lays out the Hebrew a bit more clearly.

Blessed is the person who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!

Psalm 1:1 (NASB)

This set of 3 statements about what the blessed man is not to do is kind of shocking. #blessed culture teaches that it is about things that you accomplish, gain or do positively, not about avoiding things. But it is clear that the blessed man makes a life of avoiding evil.

To walk would mean avoiding the lifestyle or manner of life of those who try to sway you towards a worldly way of living devoid of God’s existence and law.

To stand would mean a lingering. You are not only paying attention as you walk, but now you are lingering around desiring to hear more of what they have to say.

To sit in the seat of scoffers is the end of this movement towards evil. You are at the table with those who seek to mock God and His ways.

This is a progressive illustration. The author is trying to teach the reader that who you gather with, listen to, and seek to emulate matters deeply.

It is why parents often ask, “Who are you hanging out with?” When they see you with someone new, they will ask, “Who was that person you were talking to, I haven’t met them before?”

But adults, it is the same for us. Are those you spend the most time with the ones you seek to emulate in order to become a more devoted follower of Christ?

The author continues.

Psalm 1:2 (NLT)

But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night.

Compare this picture to the one we just discussed. Still a way of life, still constant lingering over a philosophy of living, but in this case the author is delighting in the law of the Lord. The word meditate here actually means to mutter in Hebrew.

Now most of us think of muttering when it comes to mental illness or someone about to fall asleep.

But the picture the author is trying to convey is when you received a letter of encouragement or when you got a love letter.

I still comb over the words of encouragement from my wife. I mutter them to myself. Can this be true? Oh, how she loves me. This is the picture the author wants us to understand.

One thing I kept coming back to in this text is the idea that devotion and identity are linked. We are identified by what we are devoted to. What are you devoted to? What do you go on muttering about?

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NLT)

“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”

This is the muttering, consistent movement of being connected to God’s Word that Psalm 1 is picturing.

Take a moment and think through this as an evaluation of your devotion: What did you spend time thinking about last week? Did you spend more time on the rock-solid truths of God’s character and goodness in your life or worldly ways to solve worldly problems? How about, how much time did you mutter about how much you truly have in your life rather than what you don’t have?

I want to do one thing as well. This Wednesday, our students leave for Onecamp. Take out your phones. Yes, a pastor is asking you to take out your phone.

I want you to set an alarm on your phone for Onecamp during one of these times to pray for them. Spend some time muttering to the Lord over them and their leaders.

  • 7 pm Large Group time of teaching and worship
  • 8:30 pm Small Group time of sharing and further study
  • 9:45 am Morning Bible Study

Would you commit to praying for one of these times Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday?

C. Two Pictures. (Psalm 1:3-4. C/R: Genesis 2:8-10; Jeremiah 17:8; Ezekiel 47:12; Hosea 13:3)

Psalm 1:3 (NLT)

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.

Trees are a picture of a relationship with God all throughout the Scriptures. Think of the trees in the garden of Eden. The author, who desires us to meditate on the law of the Lord, is pointing readers to think about the trees mentioned in the Law. This particular picture of a tree planted by water should point us to the Garden of Eden.

This is where Adam and Eve had what they needed. The trees were supplied bountifully by the rivers around them.

The author is giving us a poetic picture of those who avoid evil and delight in the Law of the Lord are like those trees in Eden. They are richly supplied with all they need.

We see a progression here as well. Planted, bearing fruit, and never withering leaves. As followers of Christ, we receive life and then our life becomes a benefit to those in the world by bearing fruit and providing shelter and shade.

I recently got to see an environment of this type.

These are in Puerto Rico. Their roots grow deep into the water, but you can see them above the water. In Puerto Rico, there are 3 of the 5 only bio-luminescent bays in the world. These mangroves help to create the environment for these bays by drinking up the water and spitting the salt back out.

The author is also describing that by devoting ourselves to God in this way, we will experience His presence. Old theologians called this communing with God.

But that is not the only picture described in this Psalm.

Psalm 1:4 (NLT)

But not the wicked! They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

Chaff is the outer covering of a head of grain. It is indigestible by humans, and in the Old Testament, it was often burned. But this picture is one of the threshing floors. Wheat would be threshed with a flail, and someone would do this on the ground, oftentimes with an animal carrying a type of flail mower. Then after the straw was removed you would take the harvest with a winnowing fork, toss it into the air and the grain would fall to the ground and the wind would carry away the chaff.

This speaks to the temporality of the way of the world. It changes, it has no stability and in addition, it doesn’t provide the grounded support structure needed in our lives for suffering and difficulty. When difficulty comes, they have no sustaining support.

Often when we think of these two pictures, our first observation is to think about the immovability of the law of the Lord. Our convictions keep us from being moved to and fro as the Scriptures say.

But another aspect is that these two pictures show us that the lives of the righteous, trees and grain seeds provide a benefit to someone outside of themselves. Your life is not your own.

Our discipleship should never be satisfied with our own growth and devotion. But we should be contributing to the devotion of others. We sing, we serve, we live our lives transparently in front of others.

How is your life providing life to others? How are you sharing the life of Jesus with other people?

D. Two Perishings. (Psalm 1:5-6; Malachi 4:1-3; Romans 5:1. C/R: Psalm 62:12; Revelation 20:4-6,11-15)

Psalm 1:5-6 (NASB)

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

This is a stark and chilling passage. The psalmist is speaking of eternity in these final two verses. Those who will be brushed away by the wind in this world will have no way to stand in judgment when faced with a Holy God. They won’t be singing, delighting or enjoying the presence of the Savior in our congregation in eternity.

They wouldn’t want to do that anyway. Those who sin and spend their lives in evil and selfish living will get exactly that when it comes to eternity. Psalm 1 teaches that the fruit of that way of life is selfish in nature and ends with exactly what their self can truly offer.

The hope is that some in this room and those who read Psalm 1 can begin to hear the warning that judgment is a reality, and it is coming. The hope is that they can begin to see through their pain and suffering in this life that their way of living is not sustainable and will search for rescue.

I pray that there are trees planted by streams of water that are ready to offer shade and shelter and speak of the law of the Lord and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

You may be hearing this passage and feel fearful, there is only one way to gain righteousness in this life. It is not through obedience to the law, although that is an indicator that you have been given the gift of righteousness, it is not through church attendance, although that is an indicator that your heart has been changed.

But it is through a gift given to you by the Judge.

Romans 3:24 (NLT)

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins.

God, by His grace, not by your earning. Freely, because of His love, not your loveliness. Makes us right in His sight and not your own. How? Through Jesus Christ we are freed. Jesus paid for that gift with His body and blood.

Let that soak into your very bones.

For those of you who are followers of Christ, this is a call to obedience. It is a call to remember all that God has done. He revealed His way as the one true way. He brought you to a place where you could hear it. He continues to provide opportunities to grow. He watches over your life and provides protection and blessing. But the Lord will not make you obey. He will offer. He is again offering today.

Through the author of Psalm 1, there is a distinct description and offer. It is not prospective; it will most certainly come to pass. It is the very reality of life here on Earth.

There are two paths in which to walk. The path of the blessed one or the path of the wicked.

Maybe you’ve been wandering, maybe you are starting to linger or even beginning to identify as an enemy of God. The offer is still for you, accept the perishing of Jesus on your behalf and place your trust in Him. Or perish in eternity, realizing, I did it my way as Sinatra sang.

Maybe you are just getting started and every day seems like a struggle. Hear the encouragement of the Psalmist to continue to be planted in Him, the Water of Life. Experience His goodness afresh today. Sit in His presence in silence and ask Him to meet you there. Obey what He has been leading you to do without hesitation today.

Let’s pray.

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